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Ways to Utilize Time-Out for Discipline

Updated on August 17, 2011

There may be times when you must use some type of negative intervention to modify behavior. Time-out is a very effective method for helping your child to regain control. For it to work however, time-out must be used properly.

Identify a place in your home to use for time-out. This might be your child's room, a chair in another part of the house, or some other, out of the way area.

Identify one or two behaviors that warrant the use of time-out, such as hitting, kicking, or talking back to an adult. Try to avoid using time-out for too many behaviors or behaviors occur frequently. If you use time-out too much, it loses its effectiveness.

When your child is engaged in the targeted behavior you are trying to reduce, give one warning. (Physically hurting someone should be an automatic time-out. Don't give a warn­ing.) If the behavior continues, tell your child he needs to take a five-minute time-out. The general recommendation for time­out is one minute per year of age (a three year old would have a three-minute time-out). Do not engage in any more verbaliza­tions with your child, and if necessary, escort him to the time-out area.

Use a kitchen timer or the timer on your oven or microwave to monitor the time. If your child calls to you, do not respond verbally. If he attempts to leave the time-out area, escort him back with a simple statement, "The timer has not gone off yet." If the timer goes off and your child is still upset, a simple statement indicating that he can come out when he is calm should be sufficient.

Once the time-out is over, you may want to review the behavior briefly and why it is unacceptable. This should be the end of your interactions regarding a specific behavior. The slate is wiped clean, and you each go about your business.

Time-out can also be used in other places, such as other people's homes, stores (find an empty comer), or even your car, if necessary.

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